SPECIAL REPORT Inside the Deepwater Disaster The Toll in the Bayou Sylvia Earle: Gulf Memories
HOW THE GULF WORKS Interactive Exclusive
PROTECTING MARINE LIFE AUSTRALIA’S LOST GIANTS
Brown Pelican, Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Center
VOL. 218 • NO. 4
October 2010 Cover Story
The Spill Is another deepwater disaster inevitable? By Joel K. Bourne, Jr.
In the battle against oil, the wetlands aren’t giving up By Bruce Barcott
Special Section: Gulf of Mexico
The blue wilderness of my childhood By Sylvia Earle
OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC SOCIETY
Australiaâ€™s Lost Giants
The case for sardines, not tuna.
Jumbo kangaroos once ruled the land.
Being Jane Goodall
Her work made us rethink chimps.
Editor’s Note Letters Your Shot INTERACTIVE SLIDE SHOW
Visions of Earth
Everest Cleanup The “death zone” holds 60 years’ worth of dumped gear. Now the cleanup begins. GEOGRAPHY
Inside Geographic Flashback
On the Cover On June 14, the rehab center caught the oiled brown pelican. After a bath—the scared birds ﬁght back—it was released July 1. Photo by Joel Sartore
Record Hail Hailstones aren’t easy to make, but they fall with abandon in Kenya and are as big as eight inches across in the U.S. OCEANS
Too Many Fish to See A $650-million survey is creating a census of crabs, sea squirts, jellyﬁsh, lampshells, and more.
THE BIG IDEA
The Hydration Myth
Backing Up History
Eight eight-ounce glasses a day? Experts think that the dictum doesn’t hold water.
Laser devices are making detailed images of landmarks to aid in any future restoration.
Crisis Cartography Volunteers in postquake Haiti quickly helped ﬁll in the cartographic blanks.
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E D I TO R ’ S
N OT E
An oily wave breaks on the beach at Gulf Shores, Alabama.
PHOTO: TYRONE TURNER 2
It is 151 years, three months, and 24 days from the day, August 27, 1859, when Edwin Drake drilled the ﬁrst successful oil well near Titusville, Pennsylvania, to the blowout of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, 48 miles off the coast of Louisiana, this past spring. Drake’s well, which struck oil at a depth of 69.5 feet, launched the modern oil industry. We have been dealing with the consequences of our petroleum-fueled lifestyle ever since. There’s been much ﬁnger-pointing and debate over who is to blame for the stain of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, but the fault can be said to lie in no small part within ourselves and our appetite for oil. It is an appetite that Drake, with his 20-barrel-a-day well, could not have imagined. The oil from that well, and others of that era, went mostly into kerosene, which was replacing whale oil for lighting. Henry Ford’s company, which would ultimately put car keys in millions of hands, was nearly half a century away. Petroleum-based polymers, plastic bottles and bags, fertilizers, jet planes, the Age of Hydrocarbon Man, as Daniel Yergin calls it in The Prize, his history of oil, had not yet arrived. The words that follow in this month’s issue, and the photographs—an oil-soaked pelican, a tarry shoreline, the despair on ﬁshermen’s faces—remind us that there is more to the cost of oil than the ticking numbers at the fuel pump.
L E T T E R S
Greenland Your article showed the challenges of agriculture in Greenland. However, it’s a bit unfair to knock Greenland’s farms for importing fodder from Europe. The European Union is highly dependent on imports for feeding its livestock. Over 50 percent of the EU’s protein feed is imported; it is largely soybeans from the Americas. Better that Greenlanders develop their agriculture than become dependent on drilling for oil off the coast. HERB S. ALDWINCKLE Professor of Plant Pathology Cornell University Geneva, New York
While Greenland citizens’ optimistic view of oil and rare earth proﬁts is understandable, it should be tempered by recent realities. The deaths of miners in China and West Virginia and the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico should warn of the possible price. The thousand-year tradition of ﬁshing and farming could end tragically, with the newly wealthy populace sopping up oil or digging out buried friends and relatives. DALE BARTOLETTI Salinas, California
China’s Caves of Faith To the foreign curators who contend that “their museums have saved treasures that might otherwise have been lost forever— destroyed (Touch Text button to read more.)
Greenland GROUND ZERO FOR GLOBAL WARMING
WHOOPING CRANE COUNT 68 REDEMPTION IN SOUTH AFRICA 80 LAND OF THE TREE KANGAROO 110 CHINA’S TREASURE CAVES 124
The European Union is highly dependent on imports for feeding its livestock. Over 50 percent of the EU’s protein feed is imported; it is largely soybeans from the Americas. DING
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Andrew Davison Arvayheer, Mongolia An Australian living in Mongolia, Davison, 32, braved -22ºF temperatures to witness an annual ice festival held on Lake Hovsgol. One of the events was this game, called musnii shagai. It involves two teams skimming animal bones toward red targets. EDITORS’ CHOICE
Selections from our editors
V I S I O N S
E A R T H
United States Lunar light in California’s Joshua Tree
bursts into view beneath Arch Rock, a 12-foot-tall, 30-foot-wide granite formation National Park. Naturally beige, the rock is illuminated here by a red LED. PHOTO: JIM PATTERSON PHOTOGRAPHY
United States Nearly camouﬂaged on the debris-strewn bottom of Florida’s male jawﬁsh holds hundreds of eggs in its mouth—a ﬁve-day incubation pro
Lake Worth Lagoon, a six-inch-long cess called paternal mouth brooding. PHOTO: MICHAEL PATRICK Oâ€™NEILL
The Sun NASAâ€™s new Solar Dynamics Laboratory reveals an erupting plasma looping into the atmosphere along a magnetic ďŹ eld line. Ten Earths could be
a plumeâ€”aka a solar prominenceâ€” stacked inside the twisting ring.
Order prints of National Geographic photos at PrintsNGS.com. IMAGE: NASA
E N V I R O N M E N T
Left on Everest
For 60 years climbers have dumped gear and trash en route to the top of Mount Everest, often in the low-oxygen “death zone” above 26,000 feet, where shedding a few pounds can preserve precious energy. In recent years melting ice has begun to reveal the scope of the high-altitude imprint, exposing oxygen tanks and other long-frozen jetsam. Though tons of refuse are removed annually from base camps, last spring two Nepali groups, Extreme Everest Expedition and Eco Everest Expedition, targeted the peak’s upper reaches and hauled down seven tons of waste, including debris from a 1973 helicopter crash. Nepalis are also concerned about corpses collecting on the mountain they consider holy. Since 1996 some 80 climbers have perished above base camp; most remain near the spot they died. In May two bodies, a Swiss and a Russian, were removed along with a pair of unidentiﬁed arms, one wearing a watch. Bringing back corpses was long considered logistically unfeasible, says Linda McMillan of the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation. But as trafﬁc on Everest has risen, she notes, so too has the desire to clean it. —Peter Gwin
Melting ice exposed an unidentiﬁed hand and a watch.
A Sherpa on Mount Everest sorts trash into plastics, metals, and biodegradables.
PHOTOS: CORY RICHARDS
G E O G R A P H Y
Where’s the Hail? It’s not easy to make a hailstone— conditions have to be just right. First come cumulonimbus clouds. What’s needed next are powerful updrafts and downdrafts. These winds carry forming precipitation up to the frigid top of the clouds to freeze solid and then down toward the warmer bottom again to collect more moisture, before repeating the cycle. The more times the cycle repeats, the bigger the hailstones can grow—and the more severe the damage down below. Most hail hits in the midlatitudes, on plains downwind of major mountain chains. But intense hail conditions can exist wherever warm, moist air is pushed to great heights, even near the Equator. The high-altitude teagrowing region of Kericho, Kenya, is more than 7,000 feet above sea level and may have more days with hail than any other place in the world. In 2009, 306 destructive hailstorms in 16 states caused more than $500 million in damage to crops and property in the United States. With warmer, wetter summers predicted for the Great Plains, experts fear that number is sure to rise. —Thomas Hayden
This baseball-size hailstone fell in Kansas in May 2007.
PHOTO: JIM REED, CORBIS
G E O G R A P H Y
C O N T I N U E D
The United States has had some of the largest hailstones, but Kericho, Kenya, may hold the record for most frequent hail.
U.S. Largest recorded hailstone (8 nches in diameter) found in Vivian, South Dakota, in 2010. Mexico Severe hail here can affect monarch butterﬂy colonies. Kenya Hail seeded by dust from farming regularly pelts tea ﬁelds in Kericho.
Hailstorm frequency and intensity High
Argentina One 2003 hailstorm killed 117 Swainson’s hawks on the Pampas.
Low No data
This map is from the ninth edition of the Atlas of the World, the most comprehensive and largest format atlas ever published by National Geographic, available this month. Learn more at nationalgeographic .com/atlas.
Bangladesh The worldâ€™s heaviest known hailstone (2.25 pounds) fell in Gopalganj in 1986.
MAP SOURCE: MUNICH RE, 2009
O C E A N S
One Fish Two Fish Dr. Seuss had the right idea but the wrong tools. To begin a tally of all sea life, he’d have had to swap rhymes for research—say, 538 expeditions and 30 million records cataloged over ten years by 2,700 scientists from more than 80 nations. That’s what went into the landmark Census of Marine Life, which unveils its full ﬁndings this month. Conceived by scientists Frederick Grassle and Jesse Ausubel, the $650-million survey— whose biggest funder was the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation—used everything from cutting-edge technologies to centuries-old ﬁshing logs to ﬁnd and ID species, map ecosystems, and assess data down to 16,000 feet. “It’s an astonishing start,” says National Geographic Explorer-inResidence Sylvia Earle. Yet with 95 percent of the ocean depths still unexplored, she says, a second census is warranted. “Don’t we want to know who shares the planet with us?” —Jeremy Berlin
OCEAN CENSUS These ﬁgures hint at the scope of the seminal Census of Marine Life. At least one million species* in the oceans 230,000 previously discovered
1,203 new species cataloged by the census
562 crustaceans & kin
5,000 more awaiting description
67 bristle worms
50 chordates The yeti crab (left), a six-inch-long South Paciﬁc native, is just one exotic ﬁnd. *EXCLUDING MOST MICROBES; NEW SPECIES AS OF JULY 2010 PHOTO: A. FIFIS, IFREMER 2006. ART: JASON LEE
H E A LT H
Shattering the Water Myth
Magazines, websites, even some medical texts recommend guzzling eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. The bottled-water business loves it. Hydration experts, however, aren’t exactly sure where the “8 x 8” rule came from—or whether it holds water. Mike Sawka, a U.S. Army research scientist, thinks the origins lie in a 1933 study on rodent hydration. The research led to a recommendation of 2.5 liters a day, or 84.5 ounces of liquid, for a moderately active human to make up for water lost to sweat and excretions. Twenty percent typically comes from foods high in water—soup, ice cream, celery— leaving 67.6 ounces, or roughly “8 x 8.” (Exercise or heat adds to a body’s needs.) Only you don’t need eight daily glasses of water. Other beverages count, even if caffeinated. “The body’s need to keep ﬂuid trumps the small inﬂuence caffeine might have on losing ﬂuid,” says University of Connecticut exercise physiologist Douglas Casa. Plus the body isn’t shy about liquid desires. Drink if you feel thirsty. If not, don’t. One exception: Hydrate before an intense workout. When in doubt, check your urine. Dark yellow, says University of Pennsylvania nutritionist Stella Volpe, is the hue of dehydration. —Marc Silver
Hydration experts are ready to rewrite the popular dictum that people should drink eight glasses of water a day. 22
PHOTO: MARK THIESSEN, NGM STAFF, WITH DAN HAVENS
G E O G R A P H Y
When disaster strikes, accurate maps can be lifesavers. After a magnitude 7 earthquake rocked Haiti on January 12, ﬁrst responders were hampered by the scarcity of street maps—but not for long. Within hours, volunteers in the capital city, Port-au-Prince, and elsewhere had ﬁlled in cartographic blanks, creating far more detailed, accessible, and immediate maps and images than most of those available online. N. AMERICA Using text messages, GPS, and plain old pencils and paper, they dispatched HAITI thousands of alerts a day about street S. AMERICA names, building collapses, and injury locations. Disaster-response nerve centers synthesized the information with satellite data, which helped guide emergency workers, including the U.S. Marine Corps and Red Cross. User-generated maps can present pitfalls. Accuracy, for instance, isn’t guaranteed. But in Haiti beneﬁts outweighed drawbacks. “Don’t stop mapping,” came a January 17 call from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Ushahidi-Haiti, a student-run project at Tufts University. Crisis mappers won’t. —Hannah Bloch
The January 12 quake reduced this section of Port-au-Prince’s Boulevard Jean-Jacques Dessalines to rubble—which still remained by May 2010, when the photos in this panorama were taken.
Section Shown Above
DECEMBER 30, 2009 Two weeks before the quake, this user-generated map of Port-au-Prince included minimal information about streets and landmarks.
PHOTOS: MAGGIE STEBER. MAPS: OPENSTREETMAP AND CONTRIBUTORS, LICENSED CC-BY-SA 2.0
G E O G R A P H Y
C O N T I N U E D
JANUARY 13, 2010 OpenStreetMap elicited street names the day after.
JANUARY 29, 2010 Clinic and shelter locations were soon pinpointed as well.
PHOTOS: MAGGIE STEBER. MAPS: OPENSTREETMAP AND CONTRIBUTORS, LICENSED CC-BY-SA 2.0
T H E
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P R E S E RVAT I O N
Backing Up History With portable 3-D laser scanners, preservationists are making digital records of the world’s most vulnerable landmarks.
A false-color “point cloud” image of Easter Island moai provides greater detail than a photograph.
IMAGE: CYARK/NATIONAL FORESTRY CORPORATION OF CHILE/AUTODESK.
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The stone giants called moai have kept watch—and secrets—on Easter Island for centuries. Now preservationists have found a way to learn more about them. In 2007, six workers who’d partnered with the nonproﬁt CyArk arrived on the island with a 3-D laser scanner and other surveying equipment. They made highresolution scans of carvings and caves, producing a data set so accurate they call it “reality capture.” CyArk’s mission is to collect detailed digital records of cultural heritage sites around the world (see map at right), from the Titanic wreck to Mexico’s Teotihuacan. Its key tool is a portable 3-D laser scanner that sweeps an area with a pulsing laser and returns a high-deﬁnition map of the surrounding surfaces. With data recorded as close as every half centimeter, the resulting surface map shows a “point cloud” that can include hundreds of millions of pieces of data. In addition to 3-D coordinates, the laser scanner records each point’s “intensity return,” a value that represents the color and brightness of the scanned object’s surface. These values are shown with a false coloring. Analysts can use this information to see where cracks are developing or whether newer materials have been incorporated into a structure. Ben Kacyra was one of the inventors of the laser scanner used in the surveys and is also CyArk’s founder. He was inspired to start the nonproﬁt after the Taliban demolished Afghanistan’s Bamian Buddhas in 2001. If detailed laser scans are available, he reasoned, at
AFRICA SOUTH AMERICA
Island Scanned projects
The nonproﬁt CyArk has created digital records of important cultural heritage sites around the world.
least something remains in the event of a site’s loss. Such a loss occurred earlier this year, when ﬁre consumed the royal Kasubi tombs in Uganda. Four kings of Buganda—a kingdom within the country— were entombed in the wood-and-thatch structure. A year earlier, though, CyArk had collected scans there. Within days of the ﬁre, a Buganda prince was talking to CyArk about rebuilding. MORE
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CyArk has identiﬁed more than 800 at-risk sites to survey. Where resources allow, it works with an international network of partners to scan the sites—38 so far. All data collected is archived and publicly available at cyark.org. “Our collective memory is in the works of man,” Kacyra says. “This is really not just a matter of preserving this site or that site. It’s a matter of preserving our human collective memory.” —Elizabeth Preston
1 Built in 1882 Uganda’s Kasubi tombs were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001. Four kings were buried in this thatched structure.
2 Scanned in 2009 A CyArk laser scan created this point cloud image revealing details, including the building’s high-ceilinged interior.
3 Destroyed in 2010 Local people gathered as ﬂames engulfed the tombs. The cause of the ﬁre remains unknown.
PHOTOS: SKYBUCKET3D (1); CYARK (2); AFP/GETTY IMAGES (3)
THE GULF OF OIL
Smoke rises from surface oil being burned by cleanup crews near the Deepwater Horizon blowout. The well spewed nearly ďŹ ve million barrels, making it the worldâ€™s largest accidental marine oil spill. JOEL SARTORE (BOTH)
UNFLAGGING DEMAND FOR OIL PROPELLED THE INDUSTRY INTO DEEP WATER. BUT THE BLOWOUT IN THE GULF FORCES THE QUESTION: IS IT WORTH THE RISK?
“You could see the life draining out of it,” says parish ofﬁcial P. J. Hahn, who impulsively rescued this severely oiled brown pelican on Queen Bess Island, La. The bird lived. JOEL SARTORE
Bottlenose dolphins slip through oiled waters in Chandeleur Sound, La. An adult dolphin can weigh up to 600 pounds. Because of their size, only a few were rescued and relocated to clean waters. ALEX BRANDON, AP IMAGES
“Mix two parts sugar white sand with one part crystal blue water,” reads a tourism slogan for Orange Beach, Ala. In early June Deepwater Horizon oil was added to the recipe. TYRONE TURNER
A shrimp the size of a staple swims amid dark brown globules of oil. The effect of the spill on the eggs and larvae of shrimps, crabs, and ďŹ sh, all key to the local economy, remains unknown. DAVID LIITTSCHWAGER
THE SPILL’S UNSEEN TOLL
In time-lapse video, three formaldehyde-ﬁlled jars tell a tale of diminishing life in a water column about 90 miles north of the well. The initial May 4 sample, collected by the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Ala., shows a normal amount of plankton— minute plants and animals that are the foundation of the ocean’s food chain. The June 2 jar holds only 40 percent of the ﬁrst. The June 28 jar is down to 10 percent. Plankton cannot survive as waters become hypoxic—depleted of oxygen. The probable cause in this case: microbes digesting oil and methane gas from the spill. DAVID LIITTSCHWAGER
DEEP TROUBLE Waters sampled about 35 feet deep on June 28 support a thriving population of tiny crustaceans called copepods (left). Twenty feet farther below was a hypoxic layer almost devoid of life. Deep waters are more likely to remain hypoxic. DAVID LIITTSCHWAGER (BOTH)
Their waters closed by the spill, ﬁshermen in St. Bernard Parish, La., attended a May 1 BP training for cleanup crews— and bowed heads for an archbishop’s impromptu prayer. TYRONE TURNER
THE GUL 52
THE DEEP DILEMMA BY JOEL K. BOURNE, JR.
FORLORN IN THE BAYOU BY BRUCE BARCOTT
F OF OIL HOW THE GULF WORKS EXCLUSIVE INTERACTIVE GRAPHICS
MY BLUE WILDERNESS BY SYLVIA EARLE
BY JOEL K. BOURNE, JR.
THE DEEP DILEMMA The depths of the Gulf of Mexico are one of the most dangerous places to drill on the planet. On a blistering June day in Houma, Louisiana, the local offices of BP—now the Deepwater Horizon Incident Command Center—were swarming with serious men and women in brightly colored vests. Top BP managers and their consultants wore white, the logistics team wore orange, federal and state environmental officials wore blue. Reporters wore purple vests so their handlers could keep track of them. On the walls of the largest “war room,” huge video screens flashed spill maps and response-vessel locations. Now and then one screen showed a World Cup soccer match. Mark Ploen, the silver-haired deputy incident commander, wore a white vest. A 30-year veteran of oil spill wars, Ploen, a consultant, has helped clean up disasters around the world, (Touch Text button to read more.)
Joel Bourne is a contributing writer. His article about California’s water supply appeared in April.
The $560-million Deepwater Horizon drilling rig burns after the April 20 well blowout. Eleven workers died in the explosion and ďŹ‚ames that followed. On April 22 the rig sank. GERALD HERBERT, AP IMAGES
MI SSI SSI PPI NORTH AMERICA AREA ENLARGED PACIFIC SOUTH OCEAN AMERICA
L O U I SI A N A Baton Rouge M
Houma Surface oil* Cumulative 1 day 10 30+ daily survey Oiled coast* *May 17–July 25, 2010 COMM
ERCIA as of
THE BATTERED GULF COAST Two centuries of efforts to tame the Mississippi River with levees, pumps, and channels have left its vast wetlands ecosystem dwindling and on the verge of collapse. “We know there was a crisis in the Gulf prior to what happened April 20,” Tom Strickland, an assistant secretary of the interior, said after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Coastalrestoration plans have been authorized by Congress but are not yet under way. They include breaking open levees to restore the ﬂow of rivers to marshlands. Environmentalists are lobbying to apply oil spill penalty funds to restoration.
Gul f of Mexico
AL ABAMA GEORGIA Mobile FLORIDA
MACONDO WELL (site of Deepwater Horizon blowout)
0 mi 0 km 50
L FISH IN July 2 G BAN 5
rr e Loop Cu
r re n
84° J u ne
t May 17 rent July 25 p Cur o o L
AN OILY STAIN Winds and currents spread surface oil, contaminating more than 625 miles of coastline, most in Louisiana. The spill prompted a ﬁshing ban in one-third of federal waters (partly rescinded in late July) and a massive and ongoing cleanup effort. Experts believe much of the oil never reached the surface and remains in voluminous and elusive underwater plumes. SAM PEPPLE AND LISA R. RITTER, NGM STAFF. SOURCES: NOAA (SURFACE OIL); U.S. NAVAL RESEARCH LABORATORY (LOOP CURRENT); NOAA AND UNIFIED AREA COMMAND (OILED COAST)
Canals carved through Golden Meadow, La., and elsewhere hold pipelines that deliver oil and gas from offshore wells. This chopping up of the wetlands is one of many forces contributing to the decline of the Mississippi Delta. JOEL SARTORE
WORKING GULF Oil dominates revenues from the Gulf, but the employment giant is tourism. Louisiana, regional leader in commercial ďŹ shing before the spill, normally harvests a third of the U.S. shrimp and oyster catch.
$101.5 billion OIL AND GAS
38.1 COMMERCIAL FISHING
0.7 1 block = $1 billion
NGM ART. SOURCES: EIA (OIL, 2008); TOURISM DEPARTMENTS OF ALABAMA, LOUISIANA, MISSISSIPPI, AND TEXAS, AND FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE (TOURISM, 2009); NOAA (FISHING, 2008, DOCKSIDE VALUE). JOBS: MOST RECENT AVAILABLE DATA FROM MULTIPLE SOURCES
645,000 OIL AND GAS
524,000 COMMERCIAL FISHING
14,000 1 block = 6,324 jobs *Estimates
BY BRUCE BARCOTT
FORLORN IN THE BAYOU Louisiana’s wetlands have bounced back before. But no one knows how long this recovery will take. Where land meets the sea in the Mississippi River Delta, down at the bottom of the Louisiana boot, the term “coastline” doesn’t really apply. There is no line. There are only the dashed pen strokes of the barrier islands,a dozen or so thin beachheads, and beyond, a porous system of open bays, canals, salt and brackish marshes, and freshwater swamps running inland for 25 to a hundred miles. These are the Louisiana wetlands—12,355 square miles of one of the most productive ecosystems in North America. Mullet are so profuse they will literally jump into a fisherman’s boat. Brown pelicans, tricolored herons, roseate spoonbills, great egrets, and blue-winged teal ducks call this place home. One-third of the (Touch Text button to read more.)
Environmental journalist Bruce Barcott lives on Bainbridge Island, Washington. This is his fourth feature for National Geographic. L O A D
Workers bag oil-collecting pom-poms near a bird rookery in Barataria Bay, La. Absorbent boom snakes at their feet. By the end of July, the cleanup had generated almost 40,000 tons of solid waste. JOEL SARTORE
A dead juvenile sea turtle lies marooned in oil in Barataria Bay, La. More than 500 sea turtles died in the spill area. As of August 2, eggs from 134 turtle nests had been moved to oilfree beaches, and 2,134 hatchlings released. JOEL SARTORE
In mid-May pools of oil moved into Louisianaâ€™s wetlands. BP boats laid yellow and orange boom to corral the oil for cleanup, white boom to soak it up. Oil covered the grass, but by midJuly new growth had sprouted. TED JACKSON, TIMES-PICAYUNE
Workers wipe oil from marsh grass in St. Tammany Parish, La. It does look silly, a parish spokesman concedes, using diaper-like cloths to â€œwipe up seven billion blades of grass.â€? But the task helped gauge the degree of marsh grass contamination, which turned out to be small, and provided oil samples for testing. SCOTT THRELKELD, TIMES-PICAYUNE
Rust-colored crude oil coats a blue crabâ€™s face and claws at Grand Isle State Park, La. C. C. LOCKWOOD
Oil-stained brown pelican chicks huddle on Cat Island, a barrier island forming the westernmost point of Gulf Islands National Seashore. Unsullied juveniles stand behind. JOEL SARTORE
A brown pelican rests at the Fort Jackson Bird Rehabilitation Center in Buras, La., after a cleaning. Only a tiny fraction of birds are retrieved and released. No one yet knows how oil and dispersants will affect reproduction. JOEL SARTORE
LAYERS OF LIFE The rich habitats of the Gulf of Mexico help make it one of the most ecologically and economically productive bodies of water in the world. Its environments range from sandy, ever shifting barrier islands to muddy, tide-washed marshes, from frigid dark zones miles deep to immense islands of ﬂoating seaweed. Even before the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion on April 20, 2010, which spewed millions of barrels of oil into the water, the Gulf was battling serious problems, including overﬁshing, extensive wetlands loss, and a huge oxygen-starved “dead zone” at the mouth of the Mississippi River. The oil spill is affecting every habitat, testing the Gulf’s resilience.
MORE Detailed art on next page
A GEOGRAPHY OF OFFSHORE OIL For the past half century, oil has driven the economy of the Gulf of Mexico. A third of U.S. oil production ďŹ‚ows from nearly 3,500 platforms in the Gulf, with thousands of miles of pipeline delivering oil and natural gas to shore. Since the ďŹ rst Gulf well was drilled off Louisiana in 1938, in less than 15 feet of water, close-in reserves have been depleted and exploration has marched off the continental shelf, onto the continental slope, and beyond. Today Gulf oil is deep oil; the bulk of U.S. production draws from wells in more than a thousand feet of water. U.S. Gulf oil reserves are estimated at 44.9 billion barrels, but as the Deepwater Horizon disaster showed, the challenges of deep drilling are formidable.
MORE Detailed map on next page
Exxon Valdez UNITED STATES 2,087
VIETNAM 332 BRUNEI 126
MALAYSIA 655 INDONESIA 330 AUSTRALIA 400
Top ﬁve offshore producers, 2009 Saudi Arabia United States Norway Mexico Brazil Top ﬁve estimated offshore reserves Saudi Arabia Brazil United Arab Emirates United States Nigeria
NEW ZEALAND 51
DRILLING FOR OFFSHORE OIL Undersea oil provides an increasing amount of the global supply, as exploration heads ever deeper in search of new “plays.” In 2020 wells more than 400 meters below the sea surface will likely provide 10 percent of the world’s oil. But going deep poses technical challenges and safety risks.
North Sea CANADA 299
10 1 2
UNITED KINGDOM 1,256
Gulf of Mexico TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO 87 Atlantic Empress & Aegean VENEZUELA Captain 45
NIGERIA 1,606 CÔTE D'IVOIRE (IVORY COAST) 55
EQ. GUINEA 6 315 Gulf of Guinea GABON 114
KUWAIT 139 3
IRAN 733 Persian Gulf INDIA 439
EGYPT 447 CAMEROON 73 CONGO 250
SAUDI ARABIA 2,216
OFFSHORE OIL PRODUCTION, 2009
2,000 500 25 Thousands of barrels a day*
Shallow water Deep water (>400 meters) Offshore oil ﬁelds 1
Top ten offshore platform spills, ranked by size (chart below)
*ONLY COUNTRIES PRODUCING AT LEAST 25,000 BARRELS A DAY ARE SHOWN (ONE BARREL = 42 U.S. GALLONS). FOR LEGIBILITY, SOME PIE CHARTS ARE SHOWN INLAND OR OUTSIDE THEIR COUNTRY BOUNDARIES.
Top ten offshore platform Millions of barrels 1. Deepwater Horizon (Gulf of Mexico, 2010) 2. Ixtoc I (Gulf of Mexico,1979) 3. Nowruz (Persian Gulf,1983) 4. Wodeco 3 (Persian Gulf,1971) 5. Escravos (Gulf of Guinea,1978) 6. Funiwa No. 5 (Gulf of Guinea,1980) 7. Phillips EkoďŹ sk B-14 (North Sea,1977) 8. Union Oil Platform A (southern California,1969) 9. Ron Tappmeyer (Persian Gulf,1980) 10. Chevron Block 41C (Gulf of Mexico,1970)
1979 Collision of Atlantic Empress and Aegean Captain 2.1 (largest tanker spill)
1989 Exxon Valdez 0.27
**AUGUST 2, 2010, ESTIMATE; OF THIS TOTAL, 800,000 BARRELS OF OIL WERE CAPTURED BY BP AT THE WELL. MARTIN GAMACHE, NGM STAFF. SOURCES: PETER BURGHERR, PAUL SCHERRER INSTITUTE (PLATFORM SPILLS); FLOW RATE TASK GROUP (DEEPWATER ESTIMATES); IHS ENERGY (RESERVES); MICHAEL R. SMITH, DATAMONITOR, “GLOBAL OIL AND GAS ANALYZER” (2009 PRODUCTION)
ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST
Good Hope Hahnville R Destrehan
ASSUMPTION ST. MARTIN
Lac des Allemands
River Ama Ridge St. Rose Harahan Luling Waggaman Mimosa Park Avondale Boutte
i ssis si p p Mi
Paincourtville Pierre Part
Westw Har Marrero
Kraemer Des Allemands
Thibodaux Lafourche Schriever T
Lake ild enw Palourde Gl Morgan City
Atchafalaya River Delta
Lake De Cade
Fo ur Le
Point au Fer Island
y Ba ue ag
Boudreaux Lake Boudreaux
Madison Bay Lake Tambour
Terrebonne Bay Lake Pelto
T T T T
Casse-tete I. Timbalier Island
East Timbalier I.
GULF OF MEXICO
ENDANGERED WETLANDS The Deepwater Horizon spill is just the latest threat to the Mississippi River Delta and its inhabitants. Both natural processes and human interference have submerged more than 2,300 square miles of coastal marshes. Nonetheless, the area is still one of the world’s richest river deltas, home to shrimp and oyster ﬁsheries, endangered sea turtles, millions of birds, a multibillion-dollar oil industry, and two million people.
Lake Borgne Arabi
wego Gretna rvey Terrytown
Belle Chasse Estelle
Violet ras Poyd Sebastopol Verret Scarsdale Caernarvon Reggio
Shell Beach Alluvial City Hopedale
Dalcour Oakville Bertrandville
arataria Carlisle The Pen
Ironton Myrtle Grove
Phoenix Davant Lake Judge Perez
Pointe a la Hache
Bohemia Happy Jack Grand Bayou
Home Place Nairn
p i Ostrica Buras Triumph
Queen Bess I.
Grand Isle Grand Isle
S WATER STATE ATE NED ST ATERS BI M CO W DERAL AND FE
Mississippi River Delta
Garden Island Bay
0 mi 0 km
Upland Tidal ﬂats and shoals
Oil or gas well
Intermediate marsh Freshwater marsh Other freshwater wetland
Crude oil or gas terminal Oil reﬁnery Oil or gas pipeline
WILLIAM MCNULTY, NGM STAFF; DEBBIE GIBBONS AND MAUREEN J. FLYNN, NG MAPS; THEODORE A. SICKLEY. SOURCES: NOAA AND THE NATURE CONSERVANCY (LAND COVER); MMS AND LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES, OFFICE OF CONSERVATION AND OFFICE OF COASTAL MANAGEMENT (OIL AND GAS INFRASTRUCTURE); LANDSCAN 2008 (URBAN AREAS)
Floating rigs, ﬁrst developed in the 1960s, have opened deep water to petroleum exploration. Floating platforms allow siphoning of oil from wells that can be many miles from shore.
Type First used Depth (ft) Example
FIXED 1938 Up to 1,754 1 VK821
Feet below sea level -1,000
Mississippi River Delta
-3,000 -5,000 -7,000 -9,000
SHALLOWWATER WELLS In the Gulf since 1938
Port Eads Up to 999 ft deep
DEEPWATER WELLS In the Gulf since 1977
1,000 to 4,999 ft
ULTRADEEPWATER WELLS In the Gulf sinc
As oil and gas reserves close to shore have been pumped dry, prospectors are plumbing a new frontier: the depths of the Gulf of Mexico. In 2009 Gulf oil production jumped 34 percent—largely from waters deeper than 5,000 feet. New technologies have made it possible to drill more than 35,000 feet down through water and rock. JUAN VELASCO, NGM STAFF. ART BY BRYAN CHRISTIE. SOURCES: RENAUD BOUROULLEC, COLORADO SCHOOL OF MINES, AND PAUL WEIMER, UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO (GEOLOGY AND BATHYMETRY); LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES (SHALLOW-WATER WELLS); MMS (DEEP AND ULTRADEEP WELLS, OIL FROM FEDERAL LEASES); ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION, OR EIA (U.S. PRODUCTION)
TENSION-LEG 1989 Up to 5,000 2 Ram/Powell
SEMISUBMERSIBLE FPS* 1963 Early 2000s Unlimited Unlimited 3 Deepwater Horizon 4 Na Kika *Floating Production Systems
nent Conti 3
of f l Gu
5,000 ft or more Salt structures
SCALE VARIES IN THIS PERSPECTIVE. THE DISTANCE BETWEEN PORT EADS AND THE FORMER SITE OF THE DEEPWATER HORIZON IS ABOUT 50 MILES.
ORIGINS OF GULF OIL
Organic material that settled in the Gulf over the past 120 million years was transformed into vast pools of oil and natural gas by time, pressure, and heat. The petroleum rises through faults until it is trapped by salt structures, some more than a mile below the seaďŹ‚oor.
U.S. Gulf oil from federal le Billions of barrels, by depth 0.3 0.2
U.S. domestic oil productio Billions of barrels 3 2 1 0 1985
Onshore Alaska and California offshore Gulf offshore 2005
BY SYLVIA EARLE
MY BLUE WILDERNESS When I first ventured into the Gulf of Mexico in the 1950s, the sea appeared to be a blue infinity too large, too wild to be harmed by anything that people could do. I explored powder white beaches, dense marshes, mangrove forests, and miles of sea grass meadows alive with pink sea urchins, tiny shrimps, and seahorses half the size of my little finger. I learned to dive in unexplored areas offshore from the many rivers that flow into the Gulf, where jungles of crimson, green, and brown seaweed sprouted from rocky limestone reefs. Under the canopy of golden forests of drifting sargassum, I swam with a floating zoo of small creatures: lacy brown sea slugs, juvenile jacks, and flying fish no larger than dragonflies. Diving into the cool water of Ichetucknee, Weeki Wachee, Wakulla, and other inland springs, I glimpsed the honeycomb plumbing of underground tunnels, sinkholes, shafts, (Touch Text button to read more.)
Sylvia Earle, author of The World Is Blue: How Our Fate and the Oceanâ€™s Are One, has led more than 100 expeditions as part of her oceanographic research.
Mission Blue Partnership
In the face of urgent threats to the oceans, the National Geographic Society, Waitt Family Foundation, Deep Search Foundation, and National Geographic Explorerin-Residence Sylvia Earle and National Geographic Fellow Enric Sala have joined ranks to establish Mission Blue, a new global initiative that seeks to restore the health and productivity of the seas. One of its signal goals will be to promote the creation of marine protected areas in critical ecosystems from the Poles to the tropics. Another aim will be to support solutionbased research to reduce overﬁshing while considering the loss of marine-based livelihoods worldwide. “This effort is not only to inspire people to care about the oceans, but also to inspire people to act,” says Sala, who is a marine ecologist. “If we do something today, we know we’ll have an impact tomorrow.” To learn how to support this new campaign to save the seas, go to ocean.nationalgeographic.com.
TOO MANY HOOKS IN THE WATER. That’s the problem with today’s ﬁsheries. Working from small pole-and-line boats to giant industrial trawlers, ﬁshermen remove more than 170 billion pounds of wildlife a year from the seas. A new study suggests that our current appetite could soon lead to a worldwide ﬁsheries collapse.
TUNA BOAT, SOLOMON ISLANDS JONATHAN CLAY
85.2 1994 (peak)
16.7 million metric tons of ďŹ sh 1950
GLOBAL MARINE CAPTURE During the past 50 years the annual world seafood catch has more than quadrupled, as ﬁshing ﬂeets have added new technologies and ventured into previously unexploited regions. Fish don’t stand a chance nowadays. Factory ships like this Lithuanian trawler off Mauritania (above) roam the world, hauling in massive amounts of ﬁsh and freezing the catch along the way.
JEAN GAUMY, MAGNUM PHOTOS. CHART: MARIEL FURLONG, NGM STAFF SOURCE: SEA AROUND US PROJECT, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA FISHERIES CENTRE
100 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
EMPTY SEA, FULL MARKET Hundreds to thousands of pounds of salmon move through Seattle’s Pike Place Market each day, much of it caught in Alaska’s well-managed waters. While afﬂuent nations may practice good ﬁsheries management at home, they often rely on poorly monitored developing countries for much of their seafood. The result could be empty ﬁsh markets in the poorest places. DIANE COOK AND LEN JENSHEL
BY PAUL GREENBERG
Just before dawn a seafood summit convenes near Honolulu Harbor. As two dozen or so buyers enter the United Fishing Agency warehouse, they don winter parkas over their aloha shirts to blunt the chill of the refrigeration. They flip open their cell phones, dial their clients in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Honoluluâ€”wherever expensive fish are eatenâ€”and wait. Soon the big freight doors on the seaward side of the warehouse slide open, and a parade of marine carcasses on pallets begins. Tuna as big around as wagon wheels. Spearfish and swordfish, their bills sawed off, their bodies lined up like dull gray I beams. Thick-lipped opah with eyes the size of hockey pucks rimmed with gold. They all take their places in the hall. Auctioneers drill core samples from the fish and lay the ribbons of flesh on the lifeless white bellies. Buyers finger these samples, trying to divine quality from color, clarity, (Touch Text button to read more.) Paul Greenberg is the author of Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food. He lives with his family in Manhattan.
102 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
The Ocean Food Chain
Phytoplankton and algae drive ocean ecosystems. They capture solar energy through photosynthesis and, when eaten by zooplankton, transfer that energy up the food chain. Small ﬁsh eat zooplankton and in turn are eaten by big ﬁsh, which are targeted by ﬁshermen.
* Look for the special issue Ocean on newsstands now and at ngm.com/ocean-special.
TOP PREDATORS Slow to reproduce, these ďŹ sh are among the most energy demanding in the sea.
ORANGE ROUGHY The orange roughy ﬁshery in the Southern Hemisphere was heavily exploited in the 1980s. The largest of these deep-sea ﬁsh live a century or more.
ATLANTIC SALMON Most Atlantic salmon sold in the U.S. come from aquaculture operations, where they are fed ﬁsh meal, adding to the pressures on wild ﬁsh.
ATLANTIC BLUEFIN TUNA Because overﬁshing has cut the population of this ﬁsh to a fraction of its original abundance, conservationists urge a ﬁshing moratorium.
INTERMEDIATE PREDATORS These species are vital for keeping lower-level ﬁsh populations in check.
ALASKA POLLOCK Although its biomass has declined in recent years, this species (often sold as ﬁsh sticks) remains the largest U.S. ﬁshery by volume.
JAPANESE FLYING SQUID Preyed upon by albatrosses and sperm whales, the Japanese ﬂying squid lives only a year or so but can replenish its population quickly.
ATLANTIC HERRING Important prey for seabirds, ocean mammals, and other ﬁsh, the Atlantic herring was overﬁshed in the 1960s but is now recovering.
FIRST-ORDER CONSUMERS Able to reproduce quickly, these species account for much of the ocean biomass.
PERUVIAN ANCHOVETA The world’s largest ﬁshery by volume, anchoveta are often ground up for animal feed. El Niño events drive big ups and downs in their populations.
ZOOPLANKTON These tiny animals feed on phytoplankton and are eaten by ﬁsh and baleen whales.
AMERICAN LOBSTER Since the population of its main predator, cod, was overﬁshed and collapsed, the American lobster has rebounded.
PRIMARY PRODUCERS Organisms at the lowest level capture solar energy through photosynthesis.
ALGAE Popular as food around the world, red algae seaweed species need only water and light to thrive.
PHYTOPLANKTON Microscopic, plantlike organisms are so abundant in the sea that they are responsible for half of Earth’s photosynthesis.
MARIEL FURLONG, NGM STAFF, AND ALEJANDRO TUMAS ART: HERNÁN CAÑELLAS SOURCES: ENRIC SALA; SEA AROUND US PROJECT, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA FISHERIES CENTRE; BARTON SEAVER
What We Eat Makes a Difference LEVEL
TOP PREDATORS When you eat
of a level 4 ﬁsh, it’s like eating ...
of level 3 ﬁsh
But if you consume
1 pound MARIEL FURLONG, NGM STAFF, AND ALEJANDRO TUMAS. SOURCE: SEA AROUND US PROJECT, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA FISHERIES CENTRE 112 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
of level 3 ﬁsh, it’s like eating ...
A top predator requires exponentially more energy to survive than does a ﬁsh at a lower level of the food chain. When wealthy nations catch or buy top predators, they increase their impact on the ocean compared with poor nations, which tend to eat smaller ﬁsh.
pounds or of level 2 ﬁsh
10 pounds of level 2 ﬁsh
or pounds of level 1 organisms
pounds or of level 1 organisms
Where Fish Are Caught HARVESTING PATTERNS
A: SOUTHEAST ASIA The popularity of sushi has taken a toll on tuna stocks. Several species are showing signs of decline.
B: EXCLUSIVE ECONOMIC ZONES Created in 1982, the zones have slowed the growth of ﬁsheries within 200 nautical miles of nations’ coasts. C: GLOBAL SOUTH After ﬂeets moved into waters around Antarctica, Chilean sea bass stocks were quickly depleted.
D: NORTH ATLANTIC A thousand years of ﬁshing by everyone from Vikings to modern Spaniards has driven cod to near collapse.
E: EASTERN ATLANTIC European ﬂeets have targeted Africa’s coasts. Leaders selling ﬁshing rights may ignore costs to local food supplies.
MARTIN GAMACHE, NGM STAFF. SOURCE: SEA AROUND US PROJECT, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA FISHERIES CENTRE
Maps show harvest intensity: ocean catch by half-degree cell (930 sq mi; 2,410 sq km), expressed in terms of primary production (metric tons of phytoplankton) over a ямБve-year period.
NORTH AMERICA PACIFIC OCEAN
EQUATOR SOUTH AMERICA
ANTARCTICA ARCTIC OCEAN
NORTH AMERICA PACIFIC OCEAN
Catch: Top 20
Consumption: Top 20
LANDINGS (MILLION METRIC TONS OF FISH)
9.9 China (except Taiwan)
LANDINGS (MILLION METRIC TONS OF FISH)
Annual average 2001â€“05 ASIA N. AMERICA
EUROPE AFRICA S. AMERICA
China 13.6 (except Taiwan)
South Korea Vietnam Malaysia Mexico Myanmar Canada Taiwan
1.7 1.6 1.3 1.3 1.1 1.1 1.0
Nigeria Spain Taiwan U.K. Norway Malaysia France Mexico Italy Vietnam Chile
1.8 1.6 1.5 1.5 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.4 1.3 1.3 1.3
Who Catches and Who Consumes Wealthy nations once obtained most of their ﬁsh by ﬁshing. Today they’re more likely to buy a swordﬁsh than to catch it. Japan consumes more than twice as much ﬁsh as it catches, while Peruvians, the number two seafood producers in the world, consume barely any at all.
TOTAL CONSUMPTION Annual average 2001-05 Not all of the ﬁsh that are caught are eaten. A third of today’s catch is used for industrial purposes, such as the manufacturing of paints and cosmetics or feed for farm-raised salmon, tuna, and even pigs and chickens.
MARIEL FURLONG, NGM STAFF, AND ALEJANDRO TUMAS. SOURCE: SEA AROUND US PROJECT, UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA FISHERIES CENTRE
ART BY ADRIE AND ALFONS KENNIS
Huge kangaroos and flightless birds, rhino-size browsers, and a predator that could kill them all: Such were the megafauna that once dominated Australia. Then most vanished. Did the Ice Age finally catch up with them? Or did humans hunt them to extinction? The prehistoric megafauna landscape survives in Cradle Mountainâ€“Lake St. Clair National Park in Tasmania.
MARSUPIAL LION Thylacoleo carnifex Unrivaled predator, leopard-size T. carnifex stalked open forest and shrubland in search of prey, which probably included newly arrived humans. The continentâ€™s largest mammalian carnivore, weighing up to 350 pounds and up to 30 inches tall at the shoulder, this hunter likely thrived as an ambush artist. Bursting from undergrowth, it could throttle much larger game, grasping its prey with dagger-sharp thumb claws and ďŹ nishing it off with its large front teeth.
BY JOEL ACHENBACH PHOTOGRAPHS BY AMY TOENSING
YOU WILL FIND THE NARACOORTE CAVES in the pastoral wine country of South Australia, four hours from Adelaide on lonely roads heading toward what the Aussies call the Southern Ocean. The grapevines thrive in red soil that sits like a layer of icing on porous limestone. It’s lovely country, but it can be treacherous. The ground is pocked with holes, many no wider than a café table, known as pitfall traps. They’re deep. They plunge into the blackest of caverns. Pitfall traps have gobbled up many a kangaroo bounding through the night. One day in 1969 a fledgling fossil hunter named Rod Wells came to Naracoorte to explore what was then known as Victoria Cave. It was an old tourist attraction, with steps and handrails and electric lights. But Wells and half a dozen colleagues ventured beyond the tourist section, clawing through dark, narrow passages. When they felt a suggestive breeze wafting from a pile of loose rubble, they knew there was a chamber beyond. Wells and one other slithered into the huge room. Its expansive floor of red soil was littered with strange objects. It took Wells a moment to realize what they were looking at. Bones: lots of bones. Pitfall-trap victims galore. Victoria Fossil Cave, as the cavern is now known, warehouses 122 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
the bones of something like 45,000 animals. Some of the oldest bones belonged to creatures far larger and more fearsome than any found today in Australia. They were the ancient Australian megafauna—huge animals that roamed the continent during the Pleistocene epoch. In boneyards across the continent, scientists have found the fossils of a giant snake; a huge flightless bird; a wombatlike creature the size of a rhinoceros; and a seven-foot-tall kangaroo with a strangely short face. They’ve found the remains of a tapir-like creature; a hippo-like beast; and a lizard, 20 feet long, that ambushed its prey and swallowed everything down to the last feather. The Australian megafauna dominated their ecosystems— and then were gone in an extinction spasm that swept away nearly every animal that weighed a hundred pounds or more. What, exactly, killed them off? Given how much ink (Touch Text button to read more.) Joel Achenbach is reporting on the Gulf oil spill for the Washington Post. Amy Toensing covered the drought in Australia’s Murray-Darling River Basin in April 2009. Dutch twin brothers and artists, Adrie and Alfons Kennis specialize in paintings and models of extinct animals and humans.
Park guides scout bone-rich sediment in Kelly Hill Caves on Kangaroo Island, possibly one of the last places megafauna survived in Australia. Scientists are ďŹ nding abundant remains of animals that fell into the caves.
GIANT WOMBAT Diprotodon optatum A plodding colossus, D. optatum, the largest known marsupial, grew to rhinoceros size. The biggest ones reached over six feet tall at the shoulder and ten feet long, their furry, pillar-like legs supporting three tons of weight. Diprotodon occupied a niche similar to the African elephant, browsing on shrubs and collecting at water holes. Its SUV size and lack of agility would have made it a tempting target for marsupial lions and human hunters.
126 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
GIANT SHORT-FACED KANGAROO Procoptodon goliah No living kangaroo can do this: reach above its head and pull leaves off a tree. Long, clawed ﬁngers and forelimbs that could extend upward like human arms allowed P. goliah, the largest kangaroo ever, to thrive as a browser in open forests. The seven-foottall marsupial with hooﬂike toes was one of the last of the megafauna to go extinct, overlapping with humans for thousands of years and likely inspiring Aboriginal tales about a long-limbed ﬁghting roo.
STIRTON’S THUNDERBIRD Dromornis stirtoni Perhaps the largest known bird, D. stirtoni never left the ground. Ten feet tall and weighing a thousand pounds, it belonged to a family of giant ﬂightless birds, the dromornithids. Humans never saw Stirton’s thunderbird; it lived about eight million years ago in the late Miocene, when Australia was drying out.
MARSUPIAL TAPIR Palorchestes painei “Tree wreckers”: that’s how paleontologist Tim Flannery describes Palorchestes, cow-size marsupials that used powerful limbs, a trunk-like nose, and a long giraffe-type tongue to strip bark and tear up roots. Scientists ﬁrst mistook their teeth for those of giant kangaroos but wombats and koalas are their closest kin.
Drysdale River National Park
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PA C I F I C O CE A N
A U S T R A L I A Perth
Mammoth Cave, Tight Entrance Cave
Wellington Caves Adelaide Kangaroo Island
Canberra Naracoorte Caves, Victoria Fossil Cave
Cradle Mountain– Lake St. Clair National Park
MYSTERIOUS EXTINCTIONS Between 50,000 and 10,000 years ago, two-thirds of all large animal genera in the world, from mastodons to giant kangaroos, disappeared. Was climate change, with shifts in rainfall patterns and vegetation, responsible for the die-off of megafauna (large-bodied animals weighing about a hundred pounds or more)? Or, as mounting evidence suggests, did the fanning out of humans from Africa and Asia—a new, sophisticated predator—contribute to rapid, continent-wide extinctions? HIRAM HENRIQUEZ AND PATRICIA HEALY. ART: RAÚL MARTÍIN. SOURCES: ANTHONY D. BARNOSKY, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY; AARON CAMENS, UNIVERSITY OF ADELAIDE; ARAPATA HAKIWAI, MUSEUM OF NEW ZEALAND; RICHARD N. HOLDAWAY, PALAECOL RESEARCH LTD; JOHN A. LONG, NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY; DENNIS STANFORD AND HANS-DIETER SUES, NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY; ROD T. WELLS, FLINDERS UNIVERSITY
DISAPPEARING MEGAFAUNA Australia Extinction of a majority of megafauna genera appears to coincide with human settlement over a 5,000-year period. Contributing factors included hunting and changes in vegetation caused by ﬁre and a falling population of giant herbivores.
North and South America North America once harbored an array of large mammal species rivaling Africa’s. Within a few millennia of a major inﬂux of hunters from Siberia about 13,000 years ago, most megafauna in North and South America were gone.
New Zealand A century or so after the arrival of Polynesians, who became the Maori, hunting and land clearing eliminated giant birds, most notably the wingless moa and its main predator, Haast’s eagle, the world’s largest known eagle.
70,000 YEARS AGO (Y.A.)
Humans arrive about 50,000 years ago.
Approximate extinction dates*
Australia Procoptodon gol
Palorchestes azael 45,0 Thylacoleo carnifex 45,000 y Diprotodon optatum 45,000 y.a. Varanus priscus 45,000 y.a. Genyornis newtoni 45,000 y.a.
Mammuthus pri Smilodon fatalis 13,000 y.a. Nothrotheriops shastensis 13,000 y.a. Arctodus simus 12,800 y.a. South America
Macrauchenia patachonica Toxodon platensis 13,000 y.a. Megatherium americanum 7,900 y.a.
Dinornis robustus 6 Cnemiornis calcitrans 660 y.a.
70,000 YEARS AGO
* DATES INDICATE THE LAST TIME THE ANIMALS WERE ABUNDANT. EXTINCTION LIKELY FOLLOWED SOON AFTER. ** ISOLATED ISLAND POPULATION EXTINCTION 3,900 YEARS AGO
Thylacinus cenocephalus 74 y.a.
iah 45,000 y.a.
The striped Tasmanian tiger, a dogsize marsupial, survived until the early 20th century on Tasmania.
.a. Humans arrive between 30,000 and 13,000 years ago.
imigenius 10,500 y.a.**
a 13,500 y.a.
Humans ďŹ rst settle about 700 years ago.
tus moorei 720 to 590 y.a.
660 to 560 y.a.
Imagine an Aboriginal hunting party 45,000 years ago crouched under an outcrop on the southern coast of Kangaroo Island. The semiarid scrubland they saw, similar to todayâ€™s landscape, harbored megafauna the humans targeted for food.
The massive jaws and teeth of this predator, Thylacoleo carnifex, look lethal on a cast skeleton at Adelaideâ€™s South Australian Museum.
Possibly the ďŹ rst direct evidence of human-megafauna interaction, rock art along the Drysdale River appears to show a hunter fending off a large predator, likely Thyloacoleo carnifex.
On a drying lake bed in Victoria, a farmer in 2007 alerted scientists to a major ďŹ nd: well-preserved tracks of a Diprotodon. The slow-moving behemoth had been crossing a volcanic plain 100,000 years ago, when megafauna still walked tall.
Jane Fifty Years at Gombe In 1960 a spirited animal lover with no scientiﬁc training set up camp in Tanganyika’s Gombe Stream Game Reserve to observe chimpanzees. Today Jane Goodall’s name is synonymous with the protection of a beloved species. At Gombe— one of the longest, most detailed studies of any wild animal—revelations about chimps keep coming. 144
HUGO VAN LAWICK
BY DAVID QUAMMEN
most of us don’t enter upon our life’s destiny at any neatly discernible time. Jane Goodall did. On the morning of July 14, 1960, she stepped onto a pebble beach along a remote stretch of the east shore of Lake Tanganyika. It was her first arrival at what was then called the Gombe Stream Game Reserve, a small protected area that had been established by the British colonial government back in 1943. She had brought a tent, a few tin plates, a cup without a handle, a shoddy pair of binoculars, an African cook named Dominic, and—as a companion, at the insistence of people who feared for her safety in the wilds of pre-independence Tanganyika—her mother. She had come to study chimpanzees. Or anyway, to try. Casual observers expected her to fail. One person, the paleontologist Louis Leakey, who had recruited her to the task up in Nairobi, believed she might succeed. A group of local men, camped near their fishing nets along the beach, greeted (Touch Text button to read more.) Contributing writer David Quammen’s book on zoonotic diseases will be published next year by W. W. Norton. Who’s watching whom? Jane trades gazes with Fiﬁ, one of her original study subjects. The wooden fence kept chimps from charging into camp and scattering provisions. Years later Fiﬁ climbed to top matriarch, with seven of nine offspring surviving— the most of any female. She and her youngest disappeared in 2004, “a really sad time,” Jane says.
Janeâ€™s entry in a 1961 field notebook
COURTESY JANE GOODALL
A Haven for Chimps An area of 13.5 square miles seemed enough in 1968, when Gombe was named a national park. But studies have since shown that this primate population—about a hundred chimps— will need a larger foraging area to thrive in the long term. As farms and oil palm plantations have closed in on the park, chimp home ranges outside have shrunk, likely intensifying territorial conﬂicts. Disease has added to the toll. The Jane Goodall Institute is now promoting livelihoods that both beneﬁt villagers and restore chimp habitat.
By 1977 the Kasekela community had killed or absorbed chimps of the Kahama group. Their conﬂict is called the Four Year War.
Lake Tanganyika elev. 2,536 ft 773 m
A F R I C A NATIONAL DEM. REP. OF THE CONGO (formerly Zaire)
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Deforestation since 1972
Community range*; year habituated
Mitumba and Kalande ranges in the 1970s are estimates; ranges outside the park are speculative.
2000s The powerful Kasekela community (current population at least 60) is the most TA N Z A N I A intensely studied.
TA N Z A N I A
GOMBE NATIONAL PARK
VILLAGE FOREST RESERVE
GOMBE NATIONAL PARK
Gombe Stream Research Center Kasekela
Milundi Mountain 5,315 ft 1,620 m
Bubango Anecdotal evidence suggests that a chimp community, called Rift, ranged outside the park in the 1960s.
Kalande Kazinga Mtanga
Though monitored since 1999, the Bitale Kalande chimps have never been habituated. 1 0 mi Mgaraganza
0 km 1
MAPS: MARTIN GAMACHE, NGM STAFF; INTERNATIONAL MAPPING ASSOCIATES SOURCES: LILIAN PINTEA, JANE GOODALL INSTITUTE; ANNE PUSEY, DUKE UNIVERSITY; MIKE WILSON AND DEUS CYPRIAN, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
FAMILY TIES Three matriarchs in the Kasekela community became key personalities in the study of chimp reproduction, nurturing, and social behavior. Family lines are traced through the mothers, since paternity was uncertain before DNA testing.
High-ranking Flo was an attentive, playful mother. She lived an estimated 53 years, one of the longest lives recorded at Gombe.
Gombe’s top matriarch, Fiﬁ has the most offspring: seven of nine surviving.
Gombe’s largest chim on record, 121-pound Frodo has sired the most offspring: eight. Freud
Flo A callous and indifferent mother, Passion’s unusual behavior took a violent turn. 1949
Her son despon three w
Passion and her daughter, Pom, killed and ate at least four infants.
Strong relationships with her children helped Melissa maintain her social ranking.
Eaten by Passi Pom, and Prof. Goblin
Stillborn infant Gremlin
Melissa 152 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
Goblin became an alpha male, one of 11 th Kasekela community has had since 1960.
Dead Alive Male Alpha male Female Unknown
Has attempted infanticide.
Fax Faustino Ferdinand
Flossi joins Mitumba community. Fudge Fundi Familia Fadhila Fred Flirt
Fiﬁ, last of the original chimps in the study, disappears with her daughter Furaha.
Flint, dent, dies weeks later.
Infant Pom disappears Pom joins Mitumba community. Passion dies
Fanni and her mother, Fiﬁ, try to kill infant Gaia, but Gremlin protects her.
Gremlin steals her new-born grandson Godot, possibly to protect him from Fanni, but he Stillborn Infant dies months later. infant twins Godot
ion, Getty ble & Gyre
Infant Galahad Groucho Melissa dies
Golden & Glitter
Only set of Gombe twins to survive to adulthood.
e GRAPHIC: LAWSON PARKER, NGM STAFF GRAPHIC SOURCE: JOANN C. SCHUMACHER-STANKEY. PHOTOS: COURTESY JANE GOODALL INSTITUTE
March 21, 1963 From: LOUIS LEAKEY
Correspondence to National Geographic executive Melvin Payne In a memo, Leakey— Jane’s mentor— credited her with a discovery that helped redeﬁne what it means to be human: Chimps make tools. Three years earlier Jane had observed chimps ﬁshing for termites with plant stems. This chimp, photographed in 2005, displays humanlike concen-tration as he snags a termite snack.
INGO ARNDT, MINDEN PICTURES (RIGHT); NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ARCHIVES & SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
â€œYou cannot share your life with any animal and not realize that animals have personal
with a well-developed brain ities.” —Jane Goodall
Bananas gave Jane an edge. A steady supply lured chimps and enabled her to gain their trust. David Greybeard (left), who once ate about 50 bananas in a sitting, was the ﬁrst Gombe chimp to lose his fear of human contact. When he let Jane groom him, it was, she wrote, “a proud moment.” It is now known that chimps lack immunity to some human diseases, so Gombe researchers must keep at least 25 feet away.
HUGO VAN LAWICK
1962: David Greybeard earns a banana
GOMBE SCRAPBOOK For the past 50 years, Gombe has had two families—the chimps who live in the park and the scores of researchers who’ve watched them. Led by Jane, they’ve camped out for months, crouched in the woods, and spent countless hours observing our closest kin. Tanzanian helpers became trackers and data collectors in the 1970s; now they are largely in charge. “It’s a really vibrant place for research,” Jane says. With today’s mapping and DNA technologies, “the capabilities are vaster than anything I could have imagined as I sat with my notebook and slide rule.”
HIGHLIGHTS OF 50 YEARS OF GOMBE RESEARCH
CHIMPANZEES HUNT MAMMALS AS FOOD
CHIMPANZEES MAKE AND USE TOOLS
Published in 1963
Published in 1963
Jane’s ﬁrst key ﬁnding ended the long-held assumption that chimps were vegetarians. Meat is relished and shared.
Young chimps learn by watching others probe termite mounds with plant stems, for instance, or use leaves as sponges.
1962: Jane and partner show the ďŹ‚ag
CHIMPANZEES HAVE RICH SOCIAL LIVES AND FAMILY TIES
Published in 1965 Complex social interactions among chimps include robust maternal bonds that last into adulthood.
FEMALE CHIMPANZEES SEEK MULTIPLE MATES
Published in 1971 Females often mate with all males in a community. Some males try to monopolize a female or take her away on a consortship.
HUGO VAN LAWICK (BOTH)
1970: Lori Baldwin retrieves a pen from Atlas 1971: Staff document chimps with prey 1970: Chimps peer in a mirror
FEMALE CHIMPANZEES COMMIT INFANTICIDE
CHIMPANZEES AGGRESSIVELY COMPETE FOR LAND
Published in 1977
Published in 1979
Competition among females for good feeding areas may include the killing of other femalesâ€™ infants.
Neighboring chimpanzee communities live in a permanent state of hostility; battles can be deadly.
1973: News of a grant moves Jane and colleagues to dance 1974: Juma Mkukwe and Yassini Selemani with Figan Shouldice ducks Mustard MORE
CHIMPANZEES MATURE SLOWLY AND REMAIN FERTILE LATE IN LIFE
MALE CHIMPANZEES STAY IN NATAL GROUP; FEMALES LEAVE
Published in 1979
Published in 1979
Many aspects of chimp aging mirror those of humans, but female chimps do not experience menopause.
Males stay in and defend their birth community for life. Females often join a new group before breeding. Transfer reduces inbreeding.
CLOCKWISE: COURTESY DAVID BYGOTT (3); EMILIE VAN ZINNICQ BERGMANNRISS; CAROLINE VAN ZINNICQ BERGMANN; COURTESY DAVID BYGOTT
1995: Jane with researcher Hilali Matama
2006: Scanning habitat edge
2003: Watching Gremlin and family
FEMALE CHIMPANZEES HAVE THEIR OWN HIERARCHIES
CHIMPANZEES GET INFECTED BY A SIMIAN FORM OF AIDS
Published in 1997
Published in 2009
Males dominate, but female rank matters: High rank is associated with improved infant survival, shorter birth intervals, and faster maturing daughters.
Chimpanzees are natural hosts for the precursor to HIV-1. Some develop AIDS-like symptoms and die early.
2008: Methodi Vyampi observes Zeus 2010: Jane with Gombe staff
CLOCKWISE: MICHAEL NICHOLS, NGM STAFF; ELIZABETH LONSDORF, LINCOLN PARK ZOO; COURTESY MICHAEL L. WILSON; ROBERT O’MALLEY (2)
Since 1986 Jane has lived as an advocate, to improve the plight of chimpanzees both
driven by a sense of mission captive and wild.
Back in the forest in 1995 for “spiritual refreshment,” Jane enjoys the company of Pax, arm raised for grooming by his brother, Prof. “When I’m on my own at Gombe now, I can easily recapture how I felt at 26, when all the world was new,” she says. “There’s still a spiritual power there. I can breathe it in.”
MICHAEL NICHOLS, NGM STAFF
LONE RIDER, TEXAS, 1974
If there is an image of mine that captures the wide-open West that has so enraptured me, it is this one of a West Texas cowboy at full gallop. 166 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
“DO YOU EVER FEEL LIK It was a summer day in 1969. There had been no rain for weeks. The 17-year-old boy from a Hutterite religious community in Stanford, Montana, said you can tell it’s really dry when a single rider can kick up a dust trail. We stopped with our horses at a stream. The water was cool and tasted of the earth. We drank carelessly, splashing our faces until our shirtfronts hung wet. “You know—do you ever feel like leaving the colony?” “No,” the boy said. “It must be a pretty rough life on the outside, all alone, trying to make a living. Don’t you think?” We let the horses drink, and then rode on. “Yes,” I told him. “It can be all of that.” Since that innocent exchange, I’ve spent much of my life traveling the world. I’ve seen a lot of wonderful places. But it was the American West that never left me. It kept drawing me back. Raised in Minneapolis, I didn’t get my first look at the A RETROSPECTIVE LOOK William Albert Allard is a 46-year-long contributor. National Geographic Books will publish William Albert Allard: Five Decades, in mid-October. A companion exhibition will open December 2 at Steven Kasher Gallery in New York City.
168 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
E GOING AWAY?” I asked. West until the mid-1960s while on my first assignments for National Geographic magazine. I can still remember one early morning in Wyoming and the first light on high mountain meadows, the wisps of clouds within my reach. That look demanded another, and another, until I found myself seeking any excuse, any story idea that would lead me back from the East, where I had moved, to that grand expanse. Now I live half the year in western Montana. I once knew an old Montana cowhand, now dead, who used to muse about times when the country was more open, with fewer fences and gates to slow a man down— restrictions in the land of the free. I suppose we all feel more restricted today. There seem to be gates in our lives that we never get open. But if we’re lucky, we find a place special to us. Even though it may change with time, if we love it deeply enough, there is a part of it within us to the end. That’s how I feel about the West.
Allard talks about the cover photo of his new book.
T. J. SYMONDS, NEVADA, 1979
T. J. was 17 when I met him in a cow camp. He hadn’t been doing too well at school and couldn’t stay out of trouble, so his dad sent him to the IL Ranch in Nevada to be a buckaroo. Here he’s got two slabs of camp-made bread slathered with peanut butter and pancake syrup.
HENRY GRAY, ARIZONA, 1970
Henry ran cattle for 50 years on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument desert country. He was 72. The government wanted his cattle off the land. As we moved about the house, Henry paused, lost in his thoughts, behind him a 48-star ďŹ‚ag.
SURPRISE CREEK COLONY, MONTANA, 2005
Suspended momentarily under a vast gray sky, these children of my lifelong Hutterite friends ďŹ nd joy in simple pleasures. On this communal ranch the older children play ball on a makeshift ďŹ eld, the fenceless outďŹ eld stretching out forever.
CLOUD 9 BAR, NEVADA, 1979
Iâ€™ve always liked bars. The glowing, jelly-colored lights and dreamlike name reďŹ‚ected at night beckoned me in Elko, a favorite cow town of mine.
STAN KENDALL, NEVADA, 1979
In Mountain City, a buckaroo had that leaving look and did so the next morning.
KATHY WALTER, MONTANA, 1969 (ABOVE); BRIAN MORRIS, NEVADA, 1970 (RIGHT)
One day at Spring Creek Colony, a young Hutterite girl allowed me to photograph as she braided her hair in a golden painterly light. Brian Morris and crew from the Circle A Ranch had just come in from a rainscoured cattle drive when I made a portrait in a Paradise Valley bar.
STEPHANIE STAHL, MONTANA, 2005
The look on 14-year-old Stephanie Stahl’s face during a baseball game at Surprise Creek has always intrigued me. What was on her mind? I took the picture a few years after one of her sisters ran away from the colony because she “wanted to be different.”
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G E O G R A P H I C
Wes C. Skiles
Longtime National Geographic contributor Wes Skiles passed away on July 21 while diving off the Florida coast. He was 52. A husband, father, and inspiration to many, Skiles was an accomplished underwater explorer, photographer, and ﬁlmmaker. Born in Jacksonville, Florida, Skiles had mapped 200 miles of passages in underground springs by young adulthood. He skipped college to pursue his passion for the underwater universe and his dream of protecting it. “Wes had dedication, drive, and boyish enthusiasm,” says Geographic Senior Photo Editor Sadie Quarrier. Assignments took him from Antarctica to Mexico and—most recently—to the Caribbean, where he photographed “Bahamas Blue Holes,” our August cover story. “Floating over nearly bottomless voids raises the hairs on your neck more than the tight places,” he observed. Skiles’s love for his work was unrelenting, remembers friend and colleague Jill Heinerth: “Wes chased his imagination around the world.”
Wes Skiles prepares for a ﬁlm shoot in the Bahamas. 184 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
PHOTO: LUIS LAMAR
I N S I D E
G E O G R A P H I C
Society Updates G L O B A L A C T I O N AT L A S
The new National Geographic Global Action Atlas website features hundreds of cause-related projects around the worldâ€”and ways to get involved. These efforts, including several speciďŹ cally focused on the Gulf oil spill, are all working toward goals of reducing human suffering and preserving wildlife and ecosystems. Go to actionatlas.org/oilspill to explore, support, volunteer, and donate.
N AT G E O C H A N N E L
This November the National Geographic Channel proudly debuts Great Migrations, an unprecedented, seven-part, global programming event.
With its stunning marine life photography, engaging text, and fun trivia, Citizens of the Sea will entice readers of all ages. Find it in stores September 14 ($26).
186 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
F L A S H B A C K
“Some kangaroos can cover 30 feet in a single bound, and may outstrip a horse for a short distance,” notes the caption to this photo in the December 1936 Geographic story “Beyond Australia’s Cities.” While driving across a sheep station, writer W. Robert Moore found himself in a race: “Propelling themselves with only their powerful hind legs, with their tiny undeveloped front legs held high, their running seems uncanny. But as our speedometer touched 45 miles an hour, one old kangaroo kept pace beside the car.” —Margaret G. Zackowitz
PHOTO: WIDE WORLD PHOTOS/NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC STOCK 188 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC
G E O P U Z Z L E
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ACROSS 1 Wellness resort 4 Flat dweller 10 Goya subject, naked and clothed 14 Panama, e.g. 15 Camden Yards ballplayer 16 Track shape 17 Before now
18 Physician-sourced nutritional supplement? 20 Like some ﬁsh populations 22 With uniformity 23 Righteous Babe Records creator DiFranco 24 French Polynesia components 25 It’s among a cannibal’s family recipes, literally?
31 32 33 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 44 45 46 49 54 56 57 58 59 60 61 62
Shafts between wheels Get hitched Ring bearer? Bass parts Hemingway and Haydn, nicknamewise Contributed Genetic messenger Wong of book and ﬁlm titles Ran on TV Willy’s Death of a Salesman kin given the third degree? Canasta objective Saving Fish From Drowning author Amy How freelancers may work Peter and Paul, but not Mary Steak shared by a couple with the same summer sign? Bowl over Privy to Entertain abundantly Male that mews __ off (offended) Male mallards Emulate Bode and Lindsey
DOWN 1 Its roe are a delicacy 2 Summons with a beeper 3 Straddling 4 Gophers’ group 5 Like the Kama Sutra 6 “Well played!”
7 8 9 10 11 12 13 19 21 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 34 36 37 39 40 42 43 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 55
Betrayed a secret Collegian in the Whiffenpoofs Merrymakers To a greater extent The Bard’s river Big house One on your side Each’s partner Some have gutters The Mossad’s country Letting go Of a forearm bone Bowled over Flavorful Find out Icicle sites, often Cameroon’s cont. Word with snapper or herring Dangling ceiling-fan part Leviathan Wintry weather woe Stockpiles Loom Burton’s Becket co-star For the heck __ Muse count Berry of the blackthorn Bottom bit of the seafood chain Pikes, e.g. Back muscles, brieﬂy Furry Jedi friend Tractor-trailer combo Slangy ending for two or go
N E X T
M O N T H
Bison roam a South Dakota plain.
PHOTO: JOEL SARTORE
November 2010 Great Migrations Birds, butterﬂies, and beasts cover thousands of miles.
Lost Herds They survived Sudan’s civil war yet still need protection.
Southern Sudan The scars and hopes of a boy named Logocho mirror his land.
Japan’s Seas The waters host arctic crabs, temperate squid, tropical sharks.
Unburying the Aztec Dig uncovers eagles, fur-wrapped knives, but no emperor’s tomb.